Wednesday, October 5, 2016
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has become the latest to hasten the release of video of a deadly confrontation between police and a black man in order to ease public tension.
But like other videos released by police, it was met with immediate criticism for what it lacked.
The footage failed to capture the entire confrontation, and the Los Angeles police department's policy is still to keep such videos away from the public eye except in the rarest of circumstances.
"For them to pick and choose what to release, and release only those that they believe help justify a shooting, that's the worst of all worlds," said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
"It makes them look like they're just trying to spin the incident and not provide real transparency," Bibring said.
The video shows 18-year-old Carnell Snell was armed just before he was shot dead last Saturday but it did not capture the scene where officers say he twice turned toward them holding the loaded semi-automatic handgun.
"If they can release that video, they can release every damn video," shouted Melina Abdullah, a Los Angeles Black Lives Matter member protesting Snell's death at a meeting of police commissioners Tuesday.
Abdullah said the footage of Snell holding a gun was the department's attempt to "posthumously assassinate" his character and doesn't prove he turned toward police with the weapon.
Another community activist, Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, echoed Abdullah's concerns.
"The quick release of the Snell slaying videotape within days after the shooting is the best argument against LAPD officials' contention that tapes can't be released immediately," Hutchinson said in a statement.
He added: "Videotapes, whether they support or contradict the police version of a controversial shooting can and must be released promptly to assure transparency and restore public trust in the impartiality and integrity of investigations."
The LAPD typically releases video of police shootings only when ordered to do so by courts. Beck told reporters the Snell video was released in the interest of public safety and to correct misinformation.
"This is not done in any way to denigrate Mr. Snell," he said.
In doing so, Beck echoed the actions last week of authorities in El Cajon, California, who released video of the shooting of Alfred Olango with a similar intention of quelling public unrest. Olango was fatally shot after he swiftly drew an electronic cigarette device from his front pocket and pointed at the officer in a "shooting stance," police said.
Police in Charlotte, North Carolina also recently released snippets of recordings of the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott that have led to violent protests.
When asked whether he thought the video would ease anger among protesters, the Los Angles chief answered that "there are folks that will not believe any narrative" presented by police.
"I think that this video is not for them, the folks that are going to find holes in whatever I present to them," he said. "Unless they were physically present they are not going to believe the police's point of view on this."
The events began when officers tried to pull over a car with temporary paper license plates that didn't match the year of the vehicle. Snell, seated in the car's back seat, looked at officers, ducked down and then jumped out of the car and ran, Beck said.
Police released footage found on a surveillance camera that shows Snell crouching behind an SUV parked at a strip mall and pulling a handgun from the waistband of his sweatpants.
Snell then tucks the gun back into his waistband and runs around the corner of a strip mall as officers chase him. All then disappear from view because they were no longer within the range of the surveillance camera.
Beck said the video showed Snell had an opportunity to get rid of the gun but decided to keep it when he ran around a corner of the strip mall, disappearing from the footage that showed two officers running after him.
After Snell ran around the mall's corner and out of range of the camera, he sprinted between two houses and turned toward officers while holding the gun, Beck said.
Officers fired three shots that missed Snell, who then climbed a fence and turned again toward the officers while holding the gun, Beck said. Police fired three more times, hitting Snell in the torso and knee. The officers were not wearing body cameras.